Career Guide

Addressing the ‘Y’ in Gen-Y

Beyond the ‘Why’ questions

Generation Y (Gen-Y), the young generation of this current age, refers to those born between 1980 to around 1999. This generation, with some calling them Gen-Why, will inherit the future, and many will be the leaders and change-makers of this nation and beyond.

Yet we have to come to a reality check, especially for those from previous generations. What has been done to invest in these upcoming leaders?

Has the existence of present things, the ever-improving technology, instant access to information, automated functions and the emergence of WhatsApp, helped build Gen-Ys or has it brought them more harm than good?

As I’m writing this, I’m also reflecting on how I got to the place where I am, being a Gen-Y myself.

Below are some pointers I believe have helped to nurture me as a person and a leader.

1. To think critically, we must first do the former, i.e. think!

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I have discovered a fascination for the human mind and the power of thinking.

Critical thinking, at its core, is to think about our thought process, re-ignite the notion of questioning, and ask why. Doing that, we start peeling away the biasness, distortion, prejudice and lack of quality in our thoughts.

It’s a difficult process no doubt, because our mind, in its own function and beauty, also learns things automatically and unconsciously, thus impeding our awareness of certain subjects.

A simple example would be when you’re driving using a usual route back home. Our brain can go into an ‘auto-pilot’ mode where you are aware of the beginning of the journey, and the next moment of awareness is that you’re already home and have parked the car.

While critical thinking may not be absolutely needed for our usual drive back home, (not to be confused with being alert on the road), the same cannot be said of our everyday choices.

If we only subscribe to the fallacy of our human mind, then not only will our mind stop growing, even the things we do will not see much improvement.

2. To think critically, we must be open to criticism

This goes without saying. We only improve our thinking when we are challenged, and dealing with challenges can be a painful process.

People dislike the idea of being wrong, or that there is a better solution compared to what they previously thought of. Much like going to the gym helps to build our muscles, critical thinking challenges us to think in new ways and sheds light on certain issues.

While we do not need to go to every single person to receive feedback from them, it is wise to be connected with key people in our lives to hear from them about how our thinking process is.

When you have learnt to accept good constructive criticism, you are also in a position to give good criticism to help another person grow. This also challenges you to consider their thought processes and figure out whether their thoughts are coherent and sensible.

The whys in Gen-Y

Another area that I believe was crucial for my personal critical thinking development was finding meaning and purpose in what I do, which could be the reason why we’re also called Gen-Why.

I discovered that when I derive meaning from the things I do, I grow in my thought processes in those areas. Because there are numerous things to think of, the best we can do is to be good at what we are passionate about and find other like-minded people who can continue to build our critical thinking skills.

So, go out there into the world and take up the challenge! Who knows? The inception of such a challenge may bring forth an idea of a lifetime.

- Aspiring to be a counsellor to help youths and strengthen family systems, Alvin is constantly in his thoughts, thinking about what has, what is, and what will be. And by the way, he also loves to make Chinese tea! To learn how to lead the different generations in your organisation effectively, email us at

This article is available at, where you can download the PDF version.